Addictive Drums 2 and OddGroves.com

I have now fully migrated over from Tooncrap’s inferior drummer to XLN Softwares Addictive Drums 2. There are specific downsides to all the virtual drummer plugins I looked at. The final decision came down to Addictive Drums 2 and Steven Slate Drums 5. Both products have the equivalent quality sound of having a properly mic’d up drum kit in a live room. Both have MIDI content of live drummers playing in real time that can be kept as is are altered by a number of methods such as a MIDI controller or even just a mouse. The important thing is they sound just like a real HUMAN Drummer not a drum machine. 

The final decision came at the use of iLok pace DRM (digital rights management) for Slate Drums 5. The entire Pace system is built so poorly I’ve had to wipe entire operating systems to rid the OS of the intrusive bug ridden software. I made a decision 10 years ago that I would not use software that required iLok pace DRM. I stand by that decision, it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the years. For the record, if Slate Drums 5 offered its own DRM like everyone else does I would have gone that route. 

Addictive Drums 2 is not without its issues. AD2 has a sub mixer like all popular virtual drum software has where each drum has its own microphone. With AD2 they did not mic each one of the cymbals which is my preference. Only the overhead stereo and wall microphones on the sub mixer pickup cymbals. While placing each drum on its own separate track resolves that issue I generally use a plugin such as this for demos not full productions. This makes arranging songs more cumbersome and time consuming. As for me, at the end of the day, as long as it sounds good I’m willing to put in the time. 

Speaking of sound……

One of the kits I purchased with AD2 was recorded at Sound City where Nirvana Nevermind was recorded. Being a native Angeleno raised in Los Angeles Sound City has always had a reputation for having a very good sounding live room especially for drums. The list of Records recorded there in past includes:

Fleetwood Mac, Rumors

Foreigner, Double Vision

Tom Petty, Damn the Torpedos

Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion

Rage Against the Machine, self titled

Tool, Undertow

Red Hot Chili Peppers, One Hot Minute

Kyus, And the Circus Leaves Town

Slipknot, Iowa

Mastodon, The Hunter

Everclear, Return to Santa Monica

Just to name a few. This studios pedigree is well known in the industry and by many artists such as Dave Grohl who produced the documentary Sound City about this studio. Go listen to any song from any of these above titles and you will hear amazing sounding drums in the mix and if you haven’t seen Sound City yet you can see it on Documentarytube.com

Step two of this plan to migrate over from tooncrap was to purchase some creative content to load up to Addictive Drums 2. I’ve had some OddGroves libraries that I have used for almost a decade. OddGroves.com is not only a MIDI content company but it’s also literally a Jazz fusion band from Sweeden. I came across the band on YouTube maybe 7 years ago and was blown away by the guitarist Per Ulfhielm’s tone. His guitar tone is brilliant as well as his playing! I didn’t find out they published MIDI content for virtual drums until a bit later. The company was just starting out back in those days. 

The drummer in this band is a Berkley College of Music alumni Magnus Brandell who is a monster player and the session player on most of the OddGroves.com MIDI libraries. Most of the OddGroves catalog of MIDI groves are in odd time signature but not all. I like to write tunes in odd time signatures so their MIDI grooves are perfect for me. Plus using these libraries is like having Magnus Brandell in the live room on a kit. Like I said this guy is a monster of a player. 

There you have it. Replacing Tooncrap inferior drummer was a lot of work. Staring at a User Interface of a company that has just screwed over a great number of their user base in a cash grab would have been worse. I’m trying my best to refrain from making this entire entry about a software company that’s a bunch of greedy asshats. I wanted to move on and work with companies that conducted themselves in a professional manner thus, XLN Audio. 

This change also gives me the opportunity to share how great of a company I think Oddgrooves.com is. Per Ulfhielm and Magnus Brandell are a class act that are really good at helping their customers. Per has answered numerous emails over the years usually in less than 10 to 12 hours. The email I sent him at the beginning of the week was a page of questions. He wrote back quickly letting me know he had received my email and that he would answer later on in the day. The email came back over to me at 10:00PM from his time zone which I really appreciate. If he’s working that late you know he cares about his clients. 

I’ll leave you with a little bit of Per and Magnus playing in their band OddGrooves not to be confused with the OddGroves.com MIDI grooves. Same blokes but different products. Enjoy!

Revisiting: The Bugera 1960 Infinium part Trois

Now that I’ve had this amp for coming up on a year I wanted to chat about putting it through its paces. After looking further into the design this amp is not 150 Watts it’s a true 100 Watts. As people have mentioned this amp is very loud. However, it’s not any louder than my JCM 800 or my old Carvin X-100B. While I wish I would have held on to the early 80’s JCM I don’t really have a need for that much amp. Since the gig I was ramping up for fell through I still don’t. But…..

There is so much I like about this amp. First and foremost having a class A point to point wired amp even if from Asia is a different kind of beast. I say point to point loosely, when I purchased mine the description did note that. Now that I’ve seen the inside not so much buying that one fully. It is more touch sensitive than almost any amp I’ve ever played. Slight volume and tone rolls on humbuckers create large tonal differences. It is made to Rock and Rock it does, it weighs a lot. The specs online say 47 lbs which is wrong, the amp is far heaver. 

After playing it through both a 2 x 12 open back cabinet loaded with Celestion Classic Lead 80-s and a 4 x 12 with Celestion vintage 30’s it growls. The 2 x 12 is a convertible that can switch to closed back as well. The tone difference between the two types of speakers was minimal with closed backs. The Vintage 30’s break up a bit quicker and are just slightly more throaty than the Lead 80’s but the Lead 80’s have tighter more prevalent low mids. 

The Tonal versatility of the Bugera 1960 is very broad. Most of what I heard online was that classic Marshal JCM 800 Eddy VanHalen tone, but this amp has much more. It goes from a slightly overdriven Plexi, to a mid range Bonamassa-ish, to a full on Matt Pike High on Fire with slight EQ and volume changes. Once your setup for the included JCM Randy Rhoads mod it absolutely goes BOOM! The first day I played it in a sound treated room I was really blown away by the versatility. 

The amp does have a Master Volume but it’s on the back. The PCB boards are only 3 ply so taking it around the world is not likely a good idea. Beyond those 2 things the amp is nothing short of amazing. I’m just quite careful when I move it. If I ever get a standard gig where I would use this head I would invest in a road case which costs as much s the amp. I like the amp that much!

One of the newer (at least to me) gear vloggers Elmo Karjalainen did a review after I purchased this head. He’s reviews are truthful and he has no problem calling out something in a product if he sees fit. He had some cool Yngwie tones in the video for sure. Here is his review from last summer:

Eric Johnson Live

The Mistro came to Oregon this week with none other than Roscoe Beck on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums. The last time I saw Tom Brechtlein play live was with Mike Miller at the world famous Baked Potato in Studio City. He really held back playing with Eric you could tell. I’m amazed at how loud these guys still play, my ears are still ringing. Here’s a taste from the show!

Ramping up the creative process 2019 epilogue

The second post I made as I revived the blog a bit further in 2019 was about ramping up my creative process. As 2019 has come to a close  I have reflected a bit and done quite a bit. I focussed on the technological side of things such as hardware and software rather than physical things like wall treatment and sound. I’ve concluded the home I am in is not worth spending the money on proper sound treatment. It can be done but I’m only planning on staying in this house for another few years. The build alone would be expensive and devaluate the house without significant costly deconstruction. 

I’m using what sound treatment I have which helps but falls far short of mixing quality. In the end I enjoy the more technical end of preparing the studio and creating within it. The sound treatment has always been out of necessity and not very enjoyable. Equate that with the old plaster walls, time constraints and monetary costs, I shelved the idea almost completely. The old wall treatment will have to do and I can mix projects elsewhere or have someone else mix and master for me. 

I found that going back to MacJournal version 6 was my “Hack” so to speak. MacJournal v6.x would let me instal the few years of journals I did have access to. The new version 7.0 would not but it’s still a new version. I created an automated Cron Job for MacJournal 6 that keeps the data backed up to the cloud. That was one of the “will not compromise points” I had, it has to have automated backup. It’s not ideal since the cloud never prunes the entries once MacJournal combines them, but I certainly won’t lose any data. Loosing 14 years of Journals was crushing. 

I have to give a big thanks to Steve Zeoli over at welcome to sherwood. Not only for the massive amount of data he has written on Journaling and note taking software, but also letting me bounce things off him in his comments section. He has been very helpful, thanks Steve. 

On to MasterWriter! I was lucky that I was able to get the old non cloud version to install and verify after I purchased a Mountain Lion disk from Apple. The MasterWriter publisher was absolutely bullying me to buy the newer YRR based cloud solution. I own the software I’m not going to be sold into something I already own by anyone. I simply figured out a way around the DRM verification. The endpoint the licensing was pointed to is no longer present those shmucks. I was able to import all my projects and am going through them one at a time. Once I sift through the lyrics then I can upgrade at MY leisure. There will be no arm twisting in 2020 I can happily say. 

The rest of the year was spent seeing up hardware I had never worked with previously. There was a learning curve especially on the Alesis VX49. I had purchased that controller 18 Months before I moved and had been using my M-Audio Key Station 88 for over a decade. 88 keys worth of controller is just to large for the room I have. In that time inMusic had really started running the Aesis brand into the ground like they have with all the other brands they’ve acquired. The once great manufacturer of ADATS can’t even support a simple keyboard controller. I look at what they’re doing to M-Audio since DigiDesign sold to them and cringe. The Microphones and Preamps M-Audio were improving over the years had become fantastic. Now they are absent from the new product page entirely. InMusic is like the Private Equity of Music Gear Manufactures. 

For obvious reasons finding information for the VX49 was hard and what you could find was not much. That Akai (another InMusic brand) VIP software it was built around was just garbage. The controllers 4” LED screen (the wow factor) was largely built around VIP. This made the configuration of the controller hard to work with and very time consuming. I have it almost dialed in to my specs but it took 2 months. That’s a one day endeavor normally but the VX49 fits perfect size wise. Even another 49 key controller would not fit nearly as well, believe me I looked. 

As for next year I’m not going to look too far forward. In Q1 I will finish all the software setup and dial in the DAW so the workflow is quick and easy. Beyond that I just want to use it more and work on it less but don’t we all. 

Have a Blessed 2020! 

Cool Free DAW Drum Plugin

I haven’t purchased the new Drum plugin to replace ToonTracks Superior 2 or should I say Tooncrap (lol) Superior 2. If you remember previously myself and a decent chunk of the Superior Drums user base are not happy without industry standard upgrade pricing but rather a greedy cash grab. ToonTrack charges the user base full price for an update to version 3.To put it bluntly screw that! While I’ve already decided on Addictive Drums as a replacement I wanted to see if any cool freeware was out there. Surprisingly, there was more than I anticipated. 

One that really stood out was Power Drumkit 2. Power Drumkit 2 works just like Superior, EZ drummer, Steven Slate, Addictive Drums, BFD , etc. It has one good sounding kit and serendipitously a lot of MIDI groves that are drag and drop just like the industry standard plugins have. Did I mention Power Drumkit 2 is FREE? Yes, the whole version is Free in both AU and VST versions for Mac and PC. 

After instal I did have to reboot before Mac OS / Logic X would pick up the new Audio Unit. A simple read through the FAQ answered this quickly. I think the samples sound good especially for Rock but more importantly they are not all compressed. There is a sub mixer like all the paid drum plugins have but with a simple compressor for each drum. While I prefer to use the compressors I own this is a nice feature. 

The media / grooves / MIDI work just like all the paid versions, drag and drop into the DAW. Once in the DAW you can quickly change up the MIDI for fills and nuances. One of the cool features is you can compose the whole tack during playback and pull the entire percussion arrangement into the DAW. I like that workflow quite a bit. One other plus is everything works, I’ve found no bugs which is not usually the norm in freeware. I’ve had a  lot of fun playing with this plugin the last few days. 

Overall I think this is a really cool plugin and my hats off to the developers Daniel Mitschang-Manda and Kurt-Schumacher who continue to work on it. There is a donation page which I would encourage you to donate if you’re going to use the plugin. Let me know what you think about Power Drumkit 2 in the comments below and enjoy the video walk throughs. 


Drum Simulator Plugins and the Challenges they bring

I have been diligently working on putting back together my studio from the move. There’s been quite a bit of procrastination but Necessity is the mother of invention! I’m focussing less on the sound reenforcement and more on the hardware and software now which seems easier.

A few months back I went to go install Superior Drums 2 which I’ve used heavily since version 1. I came to find out that Superior 3 had come out but when I went to upgrade I had to pay full price. I have every product Toontrack has ever published so I’ve spent a great deal of money with them.

I was completely bewildered when I found out I could not upgrade superior 3 and that I would have to pay full price for the upgrade. They only offered an upgrade for a year and decided to make everyone pay full price after that. I gasped when I read this online. I’ve never seen a company do this before, everyone offers upgrade pricing. I just upgraded NI Komplete from version 8 to version 12 for $199 US.

So I ask myself why the short upgrade window? Further more it looks like you can upgrade the entry level product but not the flagship product line. This has left me scratching my head. As a person who’s day gig is working for a Software company that sells subscriptions just like ToonTrack I can only conclude the management of the company is clueless, struggling monetarily or just plain greedy.

My guess is the first since most companies like these are run by musicians. I know the users are pissed off, all over the internet people are complaining about ToonTrack, one person even called them ToonCrap lol! The first two threads are from toontracks own forums, take a look for yourself:

https://www.toontrack.com/forums/topic/superior-drummer-3-upgrade-discontinued/

https://www.toontrack.com/forums/topic/superior-drummer-3-upgrade-3/

https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=504253

Tell me their clients are not furious.

Before I pay full price for a software upgrade I already own I wanted to look into alternatives. The first alternative would be Steven Slate Drums 5. I have other Slate libraries and they sound great. I downloaded the free version and the UI is fantastic. The thing that could make this a deal breaker is they use iLok / Pace for license management. Let me be clear, I have an iLok and have used Pace. The products they make are shady at best. I’ve had computers crash from the iLok license manager. That may be a deal breaker for Slate ad much as I like the company and admire its owner.

One top contender is going to be Addictive Drums 2. I’ve already researched they do not use Pace / iLok. I have several libraries of addictive drums 1 that are sampler based. They sound excellent and now that they have an actual UI of their own they are a top contender. Also they have a free trial which is just a no brainer. Companies that don’t have trial offerings are lacking IMHO. Addictive Drums 2 is what I’m spending the rest of my Sunday afternoon with.

Another contender is Native Instruments Studio Drummer. While I have the latest version with Komplete 12 I suspect Studio Drummer still runs on Native Instruments Kontakt sampler. This is a deal breaker. Once you’ve used the EXS 24 sampler, even though the UI is a bit dated there’s nothing else that compares for me. I will check out Native Instruments Studio Drummer and see if it’s a viable solution.

Next up is BFD 3 by British software company FXpansion. I used BFD 2 on an EP and for some work I did with ARS Technica. While BFD 2 sounded decent the software was very buggy and the attitude of the folks that worked at FXpansion was quite unprofessional. They were such knuckle heads the ARS Technica project was sidelined because of it. I doubt this will be an alternative but I will look into this. You can hear BFD 2 on SIXX AM’s first record The Heroin Diaries.

Those are the alternatives to Superior Drums 3 I will be looking at and testing. As of now it’s looking like Addictive Drums 2 is the front runner only because Slate Digital used iLok / Pace for DRM.

Building a passive attenuator

I purchased that quite large 150 Watt point to point hand wired Bugera 1960 guitar amplifier. I’ve posted a few short blogs about the amp. I certainly had to wait long enough to get it from Musicians Friend but that’s another story. After seeing (or should I say hearing) Matt Pike play a vintage single channel Marshall at the Sleep show on 4/20/2015 at the Ogden Theatre in Denver, I was hooked on that single channel Marshall tone. It was a sight to behold and witness!

You can still purchase the Marshal 100 Watt super lead reissue but they are $3500-ish. That’s rockstar money. I had looked for an alternative since that show, I found it about a year ago when a friend told me about the Bugera 1960 infinium. I’m not a stranger to the brand, I have a vintage 22 that’s my go to gig and jam amp. It’s loud all hell, a little too loud and it’s really good at taking pedals on the front end. I paid $250 out the door at GC years ago for this little amp and have hauled it all over in 2 different states. My buddy Chris nicknamed that amp “Mo money Mo problems.”

When I started looking at specs for the 1960 I was blown away. It is truly point to point wired, this is the inside of the chassis:

I’ve had my shiny new amp in a friends commercial studios live room and a large rehearsal space in the last 2 weeks, it’s loud! I’ve owned both Marshall and Carvin heads before, none were as loud as this amp. Unfortunately it’s far too loud for my house, but I would love to play the amp at home and do some recording with it. I need an attenuator, DI box and / or speaker emulator of some kind.

My Goals are as follows in order of importance:
• Bring the amps high volume sizzle to a reasonable live speaker volume.
• Create a DI environment so I can record the amp direct.
• Speaker emulation and sound manipulation.

Another blogger I follow named Chuck (who I don’t know but writes great articles for musicians) is looking into the bipolar other aspect of this. He’s looking at using amplifiers to record direct. That is not my main goal but a secondary goal that’s a priority. You can read his article on DI and impulsive amplification here at Chucks Guitar Geekery!

The products I’m searching for are not very abundant. Many attenuators I’ve looked out simply pull -20 DB with a switch. -20 DB will not be nearly enough for this head, not even close. The other issue I am seeing is a decent reactive attenuator is pricey. They range from the $250-ish to $1295 price point. Most I’ve seen online are not attenuators first but DI and speaker emulation. That’s making this project even more elusive.

What’s available:

Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box street price is $1295 as is the new Boss WAZA . The last time I saw Nuno he was using a UA Ox amp, his tone was spot on. Once again $1200 is rockstar money far out of what I am willing to budget. Rivera, Two Notes and Radial make models in the $400 to $600 price range. That’s still really pricy without being able to test drive one but I do like the UA Ox amp, a lot!

Bugera actually makes a passive unit for $99 but passive is not what I’m really interested in, or is it? When I did some research into passive attenuators I found there wasn’t much to them. Most are just two 1/4” input jacks and a 100k pot.

I have all of those parts in the man cave with the exception of an enclosure. I ordered an enclosure from Parts Express that was supposed to be here yesterday. With the snow storms blowing through my state have been I doubt it will arrive anytime before Saturday.

The two things that I feel like I am accomplishing with this project are: One, not spending a ton of money on something I have zero experience with. Any musician can tell their G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) stories, some worse than others. Two, keeping it D.I.Y. is always fun, challenging and cost effective. I will share here when I’m done putting it together.

The Kiss end of the road was clearly the end of the last tour

This isn’t the kind of thing I usually write but I had a serious Face Palm moment at the Kiss show in Portland last Friday. Since the music industry model changed a whole lot in 2003-ish concert tickets have become pricy. There’s only a few bands I’m going to drop $300 or $400 on for a show. Tool hell yes, Rush, yeah I did but Kiss? No, I would not pay $400 for a Kiss show without Ace Frehley….. But my girlfriend would!

My birthday was last weekend so the show was a really nice gift. My Girlfriend is a talented musician, singer, piano payer and violinist who knows her craft well. The tickets were on the floor of the Moda Center about the middle of that space. They opened with Detroit Rock City and literally one minute into the song she grabbed me and said is Paul Really singing? I had already realized Paul was Lip Syncing and I was shocked. 

Not only was Paul singing to a backtrack, the AV team didn’t try in the least to hide it. Closeups of Paul Stanley on the video monitor miles away from the microphone singing in complete pitch. All night long he would look down at his guitar neck to change cords sometimes with his mouth closed. It was obvious!

The sad thing was as we left not only were people taking about how Paul was Lip Syncing, but how the merch booths had little or no lines. The booths were packed before the show. I was going to buy a Tee but after that show no chance. Even more peculiar was my Girlfriend who had seen kiss 11 times didn’t buy a thing. 

We both felt that the whole show was a complete farce. Don’t get me wrong I have never seen props in any Rock Show like the end of the road. It was fake as heck though, it was really bogus and inauthentic. If you’re planning on dropping big money on this tour I would check out the YouTube videos first. It should have been billed as the fictitious four takes your money.